Months of mass protests have given way to more violent and deadly demonstrations, driven by extremists who are flocking to them, the Wall Street Journal reports. Law-enforcement officials are alarmed by the presence of armed fringe groups from both sides of the political spectrum at the protests and say the deadly shootings late last month in Kenosha and Portland raise the prospect of a new wave of political violence. Forces ratcheting up the intensity at rallies include outrage about police treatment of Blacks, divisions over pandemic restrictions, an economic downturn that left millions jobless and a contentious national election. Police have struggled to stop the violence and have faced criticism for allowing protests to descend into chaos, while more armed fringe groups have been drawn to the fray.
“This has always been the nightmare scenario,” said Colin Clarke of the Soufan Center, a nonpartisan group that tracks extremism. “I’m frankly surprised it’s taken this long for people to be shot and killed.” In the past few weeks, a man who had espoused far-left views and a teenager with right-wing views both committed deadly shootings at protests within days of each other. In Kenosha, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested for fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during civil unrest in the city, which had been the scene of protests against the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. . Several days later, Michael Reinoehl, 48, a man with far-left ties, allegedly shot and killed Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a supporter of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer who took part in a pro-Trump caravan that drove through Portland.